The Story of a Bra in 8 Steps, Part 2

By Pippa (For Part 1, please go here)

5) Toiling
I personally have a major love/hate relationship with toiling. A bad toile can affect my mood for the rest of the day. Having sometimes spent hours drafting the pattern for your design from scratch, it’s necessary to mock up the garment in cheap fabric (ideally with similar qualities to the final fabric) in order to the check fit and make final decisions on finishing techniques, trims, and componentry. This is called toiling.

A perfectly fitting first toile is very rare, and not something I’ve been lucky enough to experience yet. Once toiling, the garment (in this case a Peep Bra from outfit #2 of my Final Major Project range) is fit on a model and necessary adjustments are made. There will usually be a number of issues with the fit of a first toile, some with obvious solutions and some which require further experimentation. It’s this further experimentation that I sometimes love, but often loathe.

There’s nothing more satisfying than resolving a problem with the fit that you initially had no idea how to tackle. However, there’s nothing more frustrating than re-toiling time and time again and not seeming able the tackle the problem. Usually I’ll expect to toile a bra between four and eight times before I’m entirely happy with the fit. 

Above are some pages from my FMP sketchbook analysing the fit of garments in the toiling process.

6) Fabric Choice
Fabric choices are crucial to the success of a collection or range. Usually it’s the bit that designers love, but it’s the bit that panics me more than anything. The wrong decision here can make or break a range (as I learnt two days before a catwalk last November, where I’d chosen terrible fabrics that, when put together, resembled a 14-year-olds ice skating costume. Some tears and chocolate later, I remade everything in beautiful navy cotton velvet, a much more elegant choice) so I knew I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice.

I’d bought a tiny scrap of stunning olive green silk satin at a fabric sale, and had my heart set on it for my FMP, but couldn’t get my hands on a decent quantity of the stuff anywhere. When I did eventually find it in a tiny shop in Shepherds Bush (London), I bought the whole roll for fear of never finding it again. I then sent the silk satin off to be hand pleated (within the UK), therefore developing my own unique fabric with its own individual texture.

As the pleated silk satin was so luxurious and shiny, I paired it with wonderfully soft chenille / moleskin type fabric. My initial research lead me to the earthy colours I ended up using.

When selecting fabrics for lingerie, a stretch element is key so the garment fits as well as possible. Most women will find that the majority of the pieces in their lingerie drawer contain some element of stretch fabric.В 

7) Technical Work
The technical work is the time-consuming bit, which you either have the patience for, or you don’t, but either way it’s entirely unavoidable and most be completed fully and accurately at any cost.

The specification sheets are crucial if you are sending your garments to be constructed in a factory (either at home or abroad) as they contain every single detail you could possibly think to include, to the millimetre.В 

The idea of the specification sheets is that they’re so detailed that the factory don’t need the sample to work off (but they get one anyway), as every painstaking fact is documented. Spec packs include a general technical drawing of the garment, a method of make for the factory, a detailed list of all measurements on the final piece, information on the pattern pieces, and a list of componentry, so they know which bit goes where.

Below shows the some of the technical work to support the Peep style bra from my FMP.

8) Final Garment
Constructing the final garment, after so much preparatory work, is the most exciting and nervewracking stage of the whole thing. No matter how prepared you are anything could go wrong, and in a class of 44 girls all highly stressed and focused, I’ve seen some brilliantly prepared people have the worst luck, at the worst moment imaginable.

But somehow, after the stress of 16-hour days for five months, it all seems worth it come photoshoot day

Thank you for letting me take you through the story of a bra. What do you think of the entire process? Id love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Image Credits: All images Pippa Smith’s own.

Author: Cora Harrington